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Bill to control surrogacy suspended by ministers

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Australian national Tammy Davis-Charles (centre), a nurse who was involved in surogacy in Cambodia, is escorted by prison guards into the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh on January 8. Tang Chhin Sothy/afp

Bill to control surrogacy suspended by ministers

The passing of a draft surrogacy bill has been postponed to be sent before the Council of Ministers for detailed study, ministers and senior officials at the Ministry of Interior confirmed on Tuesday.

The law, which the government has worked on since early 2017, with a first draft finished in March, was expected to ban the commercial industry but permit altruistic surrogacy – a controversial subject given the latter’s potential for abuse.

The drafting of a bill on surrogacy control came after an Australian nurse and two Cambodian associates – Fertility Solutions PGD founder and nurse Tammy Davis-Charles, fellow nurse Samrith Chakriya and Commerce Ministry employee Penh Rithy – were sentenced to 18 months in prison in October despite the defence arguing that surrogacy is not regulated by Cambodian law and after a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy was issued the previous August.

Sar Kheng, interior minister and chairman of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT ), said at a meeting on the bill at the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday: “Surrogacy is a complex subject, so this bill perhaps cannot be sent to the National Assembly yet as we need more time to consider it because it is not a normal problem and a new thing for Cambodia. We need more time to study the ideas relating to this law.”

Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and permanent vice chair of the NCCT, told journalists after the meeting that the decision to delay the adoption of the law on surrogacy has been made because of uncertainties relating to the existing laws of Cambodia.

“We need to study this well because this is the first time it has been considered in Cambodia, so we should learn about how other countries have implemented [such legislation]. Because the law, when we adopt it, it will be hard to repeal. This is why Samdech [Sar Kheng] suggested to postpone the sending of the draft bill in order to thoroughly check it in detail,” she said.

Bun Eng could not confirm how long the postponement would last.

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